MATU JANSANGHTHAN ALONG WITH OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS, LEGAL INITIATIVE FOR FOREST & ENVIRONMENT, SOUTH ASIA NETWORK ON DAM, RIVER & PEOPLE, MATU JANSANGHTHAN and other environmental organisations sent a letter to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climet Change (MoEFCC) regarding the concerns of the Draft Environmental Laws (amendment) Bill, 2015.
The concerned of the environmental organisations that registered to the MoEF in the letter, that 15 days is not enough for this kind of critical amendment in environment laws. The effected community does not have way to access your notification and neither aware about it. It is a totally unjust with them. Rather providing the notification on internet, it could be better that MoEFCC make it more publically through newspaper, District magistrate offices till block level and other sources.
There are the few point that environmental organisations concerned and requested to recommend it by the MoEF in the letter
- An amendment of such magnitude the time period of 15 days is a very short period. It should have been a minimum of 90 days. There should be comprehensive discussions and consultations with a cross section of society.
- The Bill in its present form also violates India’s international commitment under the Rio Declaration, 1992, specifically Principle 10.
- The Ministry should have followed at least some of the processes it lays down for public participation, including announcements in newspapers. Citizens of India are affected and they have a right to know and participate.
- The Bill in its present form does not achieve the stated Objective to provide for “effective deterrent penal provisions and introducing the concept of monetary penalty for violation and contraventions”. The maximum penalty of Rs. 20 crores irrespective of the nature of industry and offence cannot act as a comprehensive deterrent.
- While the party against whom a penalty is imposed by the Adjudicating Authority can directly approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the affected citizens have to go through a process which is complicated if the penalised party fails to pay the penalty. By doing so, the Bill favours the guilty over those affected by the offense.
- The Bill curtails the powers of the NGT to award compensation and damages and the NGT will be made accessible only for polluting units for redressal of their grievances and not for affected people. The Bill favours the guilty over those affected by the offense.
- The proposed Adjudicating Authority is only an executive body which is neither independent nor capable of being independent. It lacks the required qualifications of judicial and technical experts of the NGT.
- The Central Government has not shown that it has the required administrative will and willingness to provide resources for setting up the Authorities in various States. The 186th Report of the Law Commission has also raised serious concerns with respect to the manner in Authorities under various environmental statutes are functioning. Under the circumstance, no further Authorities should be constituted without further serious deliberations.
- The Adjudicating Authority is to have a person who is “qualified to be” a District Judge. Qualification to be a District Judge cannot substitute experience of a District Judge. The Supreme Court has opined that all appellate authorities and tribunals should be headed by a retired High Court judge.
- There is no scientific and legal basis for categorising offences as “substantial”, “non substantial” and “minor”. For certain categories of industries the damage near the project site can be more than the damage beyond 5 kms. Yet the penalty is the least for damages within 5 kms. Also, there is no basis for deciding on 5 kms.
- The Bill suffers from excessive delegation as the definition of the terms “substantial”, “non substantial” and “minor” are to be defined by the executive. They should be defined in the statute.
In the letter the environmental organisations concerned about a serious limitations and problems with the current Bill. Environmental organisations requested to Ministry of environment, forest and climate change to conduct wide, public oriented consultations on the Bill and transparently address the objections received. This entire process was missing even while drafting the High Level Subramanian Committee dated 29th August 2014, Report, which resulted in a seriously flawed and problematic report.
It’s a hard concerned that how the ministry involved in the flaws and making the policies that favour the project proponents. It’s to be remembered that MoEFCC was sated up with the aim to make a critical eye on the environment condition but it’s seem that the ministry plays a vice-versa role, and its not be accepted. Policy makers must understand that environment safe guard policies very much associated with economic policies. We cannot forget that environmental hazards reimburse by a huge amount of money and the recent example is Uttrakhand June 2013 calamity in which dam played a big role.
Vimalbhai and Puran Singh Rana